Experts claim Ireland can only have one leading university

A report published by a leading group of international experts claims Ireland is not capable of withstanding more than one leading university.

The ranking of Irish Universities has continued to decline over the last number of years, with DCU failing to make into the top 400 of the prestigious Times Higher Education list of top universities in the world. Furthermore, no Irish University made it into the top 100 rankings. Trinity College Dublin is currently our highest ranked, listed as 110th, with an overall score of 56%.

The report, commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) said Ireland’s goal of forming a top world-class university is only achievable by a complete merger of University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, and anything else would result in a “major opportunity” being lost by Ireland.

The group was chaired by Frans van Vught, a key influential figure in the planning and policy-making of higher education, and was candidly honest about its concern over the Government’s ambitions to have a “world-class” university sector which it envisaged as being the driving force of knowledge in our economy.

The report, which was released on November 16th but was prepared and given to Government in early August, stated: “The HEA wishes to establish a coherent and sustainable system of complementary, collaborating but diverse institutions to meet the economic and social needs of the country and has given the Panel the task of devising an optimal configuration of institutions, including their number, type and location, to make up the system.”

However in its findings the report said: “Ireland’s ambitions to be a player on the world stage in research in the recruitment of international students needs to be tempered by…realities.” They said a key factor in this is the lack of adequate funding to support a lead ranking university.

The decline in Irish University rankings was blamed on staff cuts and reduced student services in universities over the past four years but Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn was quick to distance himself from the report saying a merger of UCD & TCD is “neither feasible nor desirable”.

The report was part of the HEA’s overall effort to build what it calls a new “landscape” for higher education. Also forming part of the process was a request to all third-level colleges to submit their own reform proposals.

An analysis of these submissions published on the same day as the van Vught report concluded there was “no desire” by any university to collaborate.

Rachel Murray
News reporter

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